Friday, March 23, 2012

Charting the ancient archived analog adventures of once high tech animated mechanical defenders

Okay so the big news (to me) today is that Google has a massive archive of Billboard magazine going back for decades. I've been looking through it and it's an absolute treasure trove of information.

The most exciting development is that I've found Billboard sales charts for VHS releases during the mid 80s boom of licensed character cartoons. Around late '85 they went from just bunching all VHS sales together on their charts to doing a separate chart for children's video titles. This means the popularity of the VHS releases of many kids' cartoons from the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s can be tracked, which is something I've always wanted to do ever since I did a series of blog posts tracing the Nielsen ratings of kids' shows in Variety magazine. I also found a handful of cool robot related ads announcing the release of a couple of now classic VHS tapes featuring some of my favorite shows. Check them out!


This Voltron ad is from the March 9, 1985 issue.

Voltron, the videocassette. Wanted-By millions of kids.

Introducing the first in a series of specially edited, feature film length videocassettes from Sony created from the sensational, number one children's television success story of the year: Voltron, Defender of the Universe.

Every day, three million American kids, ages two to thirteen, see a richly animated story of epic struggles between the forces of good and forces of doom; an adventure in the tradition of Star Wars that has even rages into toy stores where Voltron toys are regularly selling out.

Now Sony brings this spectacularly popular force to your customers with a ninety-minute feature presentation: Voltron: Defender of the Universe in the Castle of Lions. And Sony brings you a hard-hitting national advertising and merchandising campaign with display contests, in-store support and more. Call your authorized Sony Video Software distributor today for details.

Voltron, Defender of the Universe. The first adventure in a series of Voltron videocassettes from Sony Video Software.


It's interesting to me that this ad points out the Voltron audience extended to kids all the way up to thirteen years old, and that 3 million of them tuned in to the show every day.


The first two Transformers VHS releases were hyped in this ad from Billboard's May 25, 1985 issue.

Available for the first time two fully animated adventures featuring the phenomenal TRANSFORMERS.


Both videocassettes at your local retailer now! $24.95 suggested list price.
f.h.e. Family Home Entertainment

This ad is really cool because I think it's only the second F.H.E. promo I've ever found outside of comic books. (The other one was a Sunday newspaper comic strip advertising supplement that ran October 20, 1985.) What is a bit perplexing to me is that the Billboard ad was published in the May 25th issue but other sources I've read say the Transformer videocassettes didn't hit retail until June of 1985. It could be that since the issue was expected to run in late May it wasn't too big of a deal that it jumped the gun on the release date. Heck, the videos may have been in the stores already by late May. For whatever reason the Transformers VHS tapes didn't start showing up in the Billboard charts until August 24 so I'm not certain of their exact release date.


Here's more Voltron promotion, this time from the July 20, 1985 issue.

Earth to Voltron: Help!
Send more videocassettes.

His popularity is accelerating as quickly as a Mega Thruster. Everyday, three million plus kids, ages two to thirteen, rush home to watch the mighty Voltron Force that sweeps America everyday!

Voltron, Defender of the Universe. Phenomenal toy sales. Number one children's TV show and videocassette.

You've already seen the extraordinary action of the first Voltron release! Now Sony presents the second in a series of specially edited, ninety-minute Voltron videocassette features: Planet Doom.

A richly animated story of epic struggles between forces of good and forces of evil. A video galaxy alliance for every VCR home.

And Sony supports you with a national advertising and merchandising campaign which includes display contests and in-store promotions. Call your authorized Sony Video Software distributor for details.

Voltron to dealers: Next stop, the stars.

One thing that really impresses me about Voltron is how much press he got in trade magazines. There's the two full color, full page ads in Billboard shown here and also a ton of ads in the entertainment industry trade publication Variety. All of them mention how strong the cartoon was but this one goes a little overboard with the hyperbole. (Who were all these two year olds that were running home to watch Voltron?) A galaxy alliance for every VCR home? I think that's Voltron's way of letting you know the likelihood of your family being eaten by Robeasts was inversely proportional to the number of Voltron VHS tapes you owned.

Unfortunately I can't make out much of the text of this ad from the June 21, 1986 issue. But I can tell it's advertising the first five volumes of Challenge of the GoBots. I'll get to work on deciphering it later.


I'm pretty excited about all this and am right now planning a future podcastalypse about these old VHS tapes and how well they sold relative to each other. But if you don't want to wait for my analysis, go check the lists out at Google's Billboard archive right away!

1 comment:

Sean said...

Glad to see you're still doing the site, I've recently started work on mine again, cheers!


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